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Vero Beach council to discuss proposed Utility Authority this morning

By Lisa Zahner

VERO BEACH — The city Utilities Advisory Commission will meet at 10:30 a.m. today to discuss the controversial Utility Authority that has been proposed in an attempt to rectify the lack of representation of out-of-city ratepayers when decisions about electric, water and sewer rates and services are made.

Though the proposal, which came up after 10 p.m. at Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting, reconfigures the members of the committee and, on paper, gives the Utility Authority the ability to recommend policies and rates, the Vero Beach City Council would still retain the ability to review the authority’s decisions.  

The city council would be able to approve, alter or reject decisions of the authority and would still ultimately control operations of the utilities by way of its power over the budget.

“I’m glad we’re maintaining that control,” said Councilman Bill Fish during Tuesday’s meeting.

Fish said he is adamantly opposed to people or forces outside the city — ratepayers or not — being able to steer the direction of the utilities or being able to make decisions such as whether or not to sell off assets or consolidate efforts with other companies or government entities.

Members of the Utility Authority would not be elected, but appointed by members of the city council and they would serve at the pleasure of the council.

The city has hired consultants, who spoke glowingly to help with the formation of the Utility Authority, stating that it strikes the proper balance between giving representation to ratepayers and maintaining the ability to have oversight regarding decisions of the utilities by the elected members of the council.

The current Utilities Advisory Commission would be disbanded as the new Utility Authority was formed. Council members would still, as they do now, appoint people of their choosing to the new Utility Authority and those people would be required to be customers of the city’s electric, water or sewer services.

Also on today’s agenda is a report about Unit 2 at the power plant and an update about power transmission. No backup material was provided on the city’s Web site to elaborate on these items.

The Utilities Advisory Commission meets in the council chambers at Vero Beach City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

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